Olympics: Lochte apology accepted by Rio organisers
RYAN Lochte’s invented robbery “humiliated” the Brazilian public, according to Rio 2016’s organising committee, but his apology for it is “accepted and appreciated”.
That was the message from Rio 2016 spokesman Mario Andrada yesterday, as all parties tried to draw a line under one of the more bizarre episodes in recent Olympic history.
In a statement posted on the American swimmer’s Instagram account, Lochte said: “I want to apologise for my behaviour last weekend – for not being more careful and candid in how I described the events of that early morning and for my role in taking the focus away from the many athletes fulfilling their dreams of participating in the Olympics.
“I waited to share these thoughts until it was confirmed that the legal situation was addressed and it was clear that my team-mates would be arriving home safely.
“It’s traumatic to be out late with your friends in a foreign country – with a language barrier – and have a stranger point a gun at you and demand money to let you leave, but regardless of the behaviour of anyone else that night, I should have been much more responsible in how I handled myself and for that I am sorry to my team-mates, my fans, my fellow competitors, my sponsors and the hosts of this great event.
“I am proud to represent my country in Olympic competition and this was a situation that could and should have been avoided. I accept responsibility for my role in this happening and have learned some valuable lessons.”
It was fitting that this belated mea culpa should be delivered like this, as Andrada revealed that 2.5% of all Rio 2016 mentions on social media were related to the exploits of Sunday morning and their repercussions, which have at times threatened to spark a diplomatic incident.
The 32-year-old 12-time Olympic medallist claimed he and team-mates Gunnar Bentz, Jack Conger and James Feigen were stopped by armed robbers posing as police in their taxi back to the athletes’ village following a party.
However, Rio police spotted inconsistencies in their initial statements and, following an investigation, civil police chief Fernando Veloso told a press conference on Thursday that Lochte had lied to cover up an altercation involving the door and sink of a petrol station toilet and the presence of two women the group had met at the party.
A security guard at the petrol station did pull his gun but only to calm down an aggressive Lochte, said Veloso, and the four swimmers left the scene before the police arrived, having handed over a small sum of money to pay for the damage.
Lochte has been back in the US since Monday but Bentz and Conger were only allowed to leave yesterday morning, having been dramatically removed from a plane on Rio’s runway on Wednesday evening. The pair were taunted by crowds of locals as they left a Rio police station on Thursday evening.
Feigen is reported to have made a charitable donation of more than £8,000 to have charges of criminal damage and falsely reporting a crime dropped, and to get his passport back. He is expected to fly home today.
Reaction in Brazil to this tale has been so strong because the US media is perceived to have been overly critical of Rio’s suitability to host the Games, given its dire economic situation and problems with the mosquito-borne Zika virus.
Prior to Lochte’s apology being posted, the United States Olympic Committee and USA Swimming issued their own statements expressing regrets and a promise to review the matter after the Games.
Andrada said: “We accept this apology and we appreciate it – the Brazilian population was quite disappointed by his actions.’’